Nick MacKechnie
#8 wire kinda guy.....

IT Does Matter!

Thursday, 25 June 2009 02:29 by Nick MacKechnie

Hi All,

Today started like most others, with my daily dose of humour and news watching Breakfast on TV One. Over the past few days, there have been a number of articles online in New Zealand suggesting that 1000 people join the unemployment benefit weekly with a projection of 60,000 people being restructured over the next 12 months. Alot of the initiatives that where floated at the February job summit seemed to have stalled, or appear to have had little impact at this stage.

The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) is having a major impact on the way we do business, the way we look at new opportunities and as well as the social implications on how we live our daily lives.

The requirement to be fiscally responsible can be interpreted as ‘stop spending all money, reduce staff, cut back anything that looks large or complex’, I question whether that is the right thing to do?

Information Technology is in a strong place to add real business value and be a real asset in driving costs out of the business to help cushion the impact of this global recession. Core infrastructure is often neglected and overlooked by organizations - it is the foundation that we build our business on and around. This can be either a strategic asset and enabler, or a noose around our neck in terms of our ability to move with the times, be supported, supportable, secure, reliable, as well as enhancing our ability to interoperate with other systems, applications and vendors. If you have leaky pipes, do you want to spend your time and money fixing leaks or laying new pipes that give your business increased profitability and a competitive advantage?

As times get tougher, businesses look at ways of driving costs out of the business, often it’s going through a P&L and looking for large items of expenditure and asking/confirming do we really need these and making the call. e.g.: Maintenance agreements / Support Agreements can be expensive, however they provide a level of insurance in the event of failure. This could be seen as a quick win in terms of immediate cost savings; however the longer term implications of terminating such things need to be taken into consideration. Like all discussions with vendors, it’s wise to evaluate the level of service you need and receive for the level of money you pay. If you aren’t receiving the level of value you believe you should be, then it’s time to have that conversation and keep parties honest. Finding large cost items to remove is generally given to the budget owner, but IT must understand that they are employed by the business to provide services – the platform for the business to make money. We need to bare this in mind when we look at cost savings and the flow on effect of these decisions for today and tomorrow.

IT departments have come a long way from a place where the ‘geeks’ are, where they have the latest and greatest toys, deploy new versions of software just because it’s a new version, however I’m not certain we are as business aligned as we can and should be. We need to get closer to the business, become part of their vital business functions and enable them to achieve the business outcomes they need. I come from a background in infrastructure and understand how it’s very easy to become siloed and focused on the task at hand, rather than taking a step back and understanding, listening and delivering to the businesses requirements.

With shrinking budgets, headcount, time and resources, we need to look at the ways we can make a difference to the organisation. There’s no rocket science here –

Business Alignment - Understanding what is important to the business, what they see as the money earners this financial year and beyond, understanding their challenges, what they deem as critical and must have services. We need to continue to build strong relationships with key stake holders so that we are included in and assist with decisions made for the business. By doing this, we can align IT projects and look for quick win opportunities and drive project consolidation. Focus on risks and how IT can mitigate against them by reducing the likelihood of things happening. Understand your competitors, their weaknesses and where you can focus to grow market share and increase your competitive advantage. In order for businesses to make well informed decisions, they need to have decent information. This clearly falls in the realms of IT, business analysts and finance departments.

Virtualization – Looking at opportunities to reduce cost in terms of power consumption, platform consolidation, floor footprint, retiring older/non-supported hardware and software, maximise hardware capability, automation, smarter disaster recovery options, lab, testing and development environments, fault tolerance - all to improve availability/reliability/maintainability/manageability and remove longer term costs.

Business Automation – Work with the business to understand opportunities to leverage technology to automate and drive costs out of the business through smart automation – align to the businesses 1, 3, 5 year strategic plan. IT will never be anything other than a cost centre unless we align to the desired business outcomes.

Realising the value of the software you own – Customers buy software in a variety of ways from vendors. Some of these options include maintenance which may entitle you to newer versions of the software once it becomes available. IT are in the best position to interpret the business requirements, understand how and what the organisation are licensed for, and therefore potentially save money through smart deployment. Alot of purchased software sits on the shelf un-installed, this can be due to the fire fighting nature of the organisation/IT, changed or different business priorities, or a disconnect between procurement and IT and the business. Newer versions of software typically offer more features and functionality and therefore value if deployed. It’s also an opportunity to understand and explore the alternative options for purchasing/deploying software. There are now a variety of purchasing options available that include software for on premise (traditional), off premise (in the cloud) and a hybrid via subscription as well as vendors also offering attractive financing options.

Consolidation of technologies and platforms – When I visit customers, it’s not uncommon for them to have multiple versions of operating systems and applications, some are within support and others clearly are not. It can be hard to turn off old machines as new systems are introduced due to lack of documentation, understanding of the flow on affect, hard coding in custom written applications etc, so we need to leverage technologies such as virtualization to overcome some of these hurdles. We need to look at the toolsets the organisation need and use and why different business units have different tools for the same/similar job.

Proactive Engagement – We need to have the right tools to understand how our environment is behaving, and why. History teaches those who listen, and monitoring your environment and having the right tools to take action is a must. We need businesses to understand that in order to have a healthy car, it needs to be regularly serviced (health checks) as well as maintained. Best practice at the point of deployment don’t mean its best practice long term – Technology, learning’s, and operational tasks should be reviewed regularly and amended as it makes sense.

Unified Communications – Telephony and collaboration costs can be significantly reduced by smarter delivery options. The ability to take your phone extension with you while you travel adds huge value, as well as being able to reduce toll calls by dialling out of local points of presence. UC is an enabler for driving costs out, as well as reducing the requirement to travel by using the right conferencing technologies.

The Team – We need to look after the people that oil the cogs, continue to develop and grow their capabilities, and provide opportunities as well as helping them to have a balanced work and home life.

By understanding business processes, and aligning IT to increase efficiencies, availability, reliability and performance, you can have a large impact on profitability as well as delivering greater value and more choices to your customers.

As I reflect on the past few months, and the number of phone calls I’ve had from people affected by restructures, it’s fantastic to see companies investing in people and doing the right thing as much as possible through employee assistance programs (assistance with preparing CV’s, helping understand alternative career options, counselling) and putting staff and their families affected in the forefront as they go through very tough times.

The point I’m trying to make is, that in order to move forward, become agile, increase profitability and retain skilled staff, we need to build tighter relationships with the business, understand what they want to achieve and when they need to achieve it. We need to advise them on what is technically possible; everything has a cost, even if you choose to do nothing. Through communication, technology and a bit of hard work, we can better use the assets we have today and deliver for the needs for tomorrow.

Nick.

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Windows 7 RC and HP 2140 Notebook

Thursday, 18 June 2009 02:11 by Nick MacKechnie

Hi All,

For those of you who have installed Windows 7 RC on one these netbooks and couldn’t figure out what the two unknown devices are in device manager, then I have the solution for you.

Visit the HP website here and install the following downloads:

Capture2

Capture

Nick.

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Categories:   HP | Microsoft | My Opinion | Tips
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Sierra Wireless C597 USB card (T-Stick) and Windows 7

Thursday, 26 February 2009 22:32 by Nick MacKechnie

Hi All,

For those of you that have (or intend on getting) one of these great devices, the current install files on the t-stick don’t work as expected with Windows 7.

Here’s a work around: -

When you insert the t-stick into a USB port, follow the normal process of installing the drivers. It will fail on recognising a number of components. Move the t-stick to another USB port and then add the drivers manually by looking at the other devices section in the device manager, right clicking on the component, choose the Update driver Software option and point the path to the C:\Program Files\Sierra Wireless\USBMUX Drivers folder. Once this done for each one, it should look something like this.

Sierra

Then fire up the watcher, and you should be away after clicking on the connect button.

3gconnect

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A day in history for MS…

Saturday, 24 January 2009 11:00 by Nick MacKechnie

Today Microsoft announced on the back of its 2nd quarter earnings, that it plans to cut 5,000 jobs over the next 18 months - starting with 1400. I found myself today reflecting on the organisation I work for, the job I do, and what I/the company needs to focus on to weather the storm moving forward in the current economic climate. I’ve often joke with colleagues and friends that for me, working for Microsoft is an addiction. I’m never far away from email, a laptop or my cellphone, and I find myself fortunate to be paid to do my hobby. So my sincere thoughts are with those that were let go today and their families.

We had a company meeting in New Zealand today, and it’s clear to me that the company wants to look after it’s strongest assets (the people) while ensuring we meet our shareholders expectations by increasing market share and profitability. Our leadership team did an excellent job in relaying the facts as they currently stand, installing confidence in the job that we do, our contribution as a subsidiary to the corporation as well as New Zealand and how we can play a positive hand in our destiny by the way we engage with our customers and partners and focus on the job at hand.

We can’t be successful unless our customers and partners are, so now is the time more than ever, for us to help identify opportunities to drive costs out of organisations through automation, process improvement, and smart adoption and deployment of technology.

We aren’t a faceless US Corporation, we are Microsoft New Zealand. If you need to drive costs of your business, make sure you are realising the value of the software you currently own, talk to us about the challenges you face - you maybe surprised where we can help.

Nick.

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Whopper Sacrifice - Free burger to cut Facebook friends

Thursday, 15 January 2009 04:08 by Nick MacKechnie

Hi All, 

Fast food chain Burger King is putting online friendships to the test with their latest marketing campaign.

The burger empire has created a Facebook application, “Whopper Sacrifice”, which gives users a free hamburger coupon if they delete 10 people from their friends list.

“Now is the time to put your fair-weather web friendships to the test”, says the Whopper Sacrifice website.

“Install Whopper Sacrifice on your Facebook profile, and we’ll reward you with a free flame-broiled Whopper when you sacrifice ten of your friends."

Bizzar – go here for the full article.

So… 62 burgers for me, just what I need… :-)

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2009!

Thursday, 1 January 2009 22:45 by Nick MacKechnie

Hi All,

So it’s 2009 already! We had a great party around here last night with some good friends; the kids had blast in the pool, playing swingball and staying up late.... So I’m sure they will be in _fine_ form today... no really! :-)

Last year had a lot of challenges for us as a family with various things going on, and this year no doubt will have its fair share, particularly with the impact of the struggling world economies, pending job losses and rising unemployment etc.

I was showing Brett a few snaps of our holiday last week from Purau and our retro camping experience with our Sprite Pop-top Caravan. If we reflect on life, the good memories that stick in our mind aren’t typically the things we purchase – it’s the time spent with friends and family. The kids had a blast at the beach, pool, playing in the creek trying to catch whitebait/eels, biking, staying up late etc and we found it very relaxing.

1 2 3 4

So for me, 2009 will be about focusing on the important things in life (family, friends, work – balance..) and enjoying the challenges that life offers to us all.

Have a great year, focus on what you can change/impact and enjoy your family moments! :-)

Nick.

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Santa Call is back!

Saturday, 6 December 2008 09:31 by Nick MacKechnie
 

Santa Call is back in action and ready to add magic to your kids' Christmas.


Just visit the Santa Call website [www.santacall.co.nz] to have Santa call your kids and record their Christmas wish-list. You will then receive an email with a voice recording of your child's wishes.

Nick.

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emoze Adds Facebook Messaging to Windows Mobile Phones

Friday, 5 December 2008 22:43 by Nick MacKechnie

emoze_logoDo you wish you could receive your Facebook messages along with your regular email on your Windows Mobile phone? Now you can with the new version of the emoze mobile push email service. With emoze’s free application, you can read, reply, and send messages directly from your phone’s interface without having to open up and browse to the Facebook web site itself. It’s completely integrated with your phone, all that’s required is a data connection. 

Once installed, the emoze Mobile Client application communicates with the Emoze Global Service Network (EGSN) to receive the incoming emails and direct them to the inbox on the mobile device.

Emoze can be downloaded from www.emoze.com or downloaded directly onto your Window’s Mobile device by navigating to http://emoze.com.

Nick.

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Mount SkyDrive As A Virtual Drive In Windows

Wednesday, 3 December 2008 00:26 by Nick MacKechnie

Love the 5GB (soon to be 25GB) of free online storage provided by SkyDrive, but wish you could access it browser-free? That’s the promise of a new application called Gladinet, a desktop software program that delivers web applications and online files to your desktop. With Gladinet installed, online storage sites like SkyDrive and others become available through Windows Explorer, where they exist as a virtual drive.

To use Gladinet, you only need provide your username and password to the program once, then the credentials are stored in a "Safe Card," which can be managed separately from the application itself. When connecting to remote drives, some reports note that Gladinet may take a minute or two to connect to the resource.

In many ways, this program functions as a desktop app for services that don’t provide desktop access. However, with the upcoming Windows Live Photos service (which stores images on SkyDrive), the Windows Live Photo Gallery desktop app integrates seamlessly with the online service, making the need for another desktop app somewhat redundant if you only use SkyDrive for images. But for those who manage all sorts of files on SkyDrive, Gladinet could be a useful tool.

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Meridian Energy – gripe!

Saturday, 15 November 2008 10:51 by Nick MacKechnie

Hi All,

I had a call from Meridian Energy a week or so ago as we’ve been laggards at being home so the new power meter could be installed – thanks to the electric gates for keeping out many unwanted guests! :-) So I arranged to have the gentleman install the new meter early on Wednesday morning (as I’d been in Auckland for work). It took him about 40 minutes to install and off he trundled.

A few things miffed me about the engagement:

  1. It somewhat urks me when I have to clean up after tradesmen, especially after they install a unit in my property to make life easier for them/their employer
  2. The new units are being installed to remove the requirement for people to manually read the meter – we live semi-rural, and as such required a larger than normal external aerial. When I asked if this could be put in the ceiling as it was ugly and I’d prefer I didn’t have to look at it, I got the response you’d expect I would receive – needless to say, I will be ‘moving it'…
  3. You’d expect that a nice new meter would be a little more ‘modern’ – there is no LCD screen, it’s the standard analogue counter that the pervious model had, there is no ability to see how much power you’re consuming, peak power statistics etc
  4. Since this unit was put in to make life easier for the power company, it in fact costs me money to make it easier for them, as well as their cost savings in not having someone read my meter. These new units poll a site to update the statistics on my power usage and I’m paying for that privilege. Is this another way they can increase profitability? Shouldn't they be offering me a discount or adjusting power bills to take this into consideration – I THINK SO!

 

Nick

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